What Defines An Entrepreneur? Mark Cuban, Sheryl Sandberg & Others Share Their Insight

Flickr / JD Lasica

Mark Cuban

Flickr / JD Lasica

Kristina Udice
Kristina Udice
What is an entrepreneur, and what is the work of an entrepreneur? What is an entrepreneur definition, characteristics and examples? The easy definition is a self-made big or small business owner — someone who started their own successful business or from the ground up with an innovative business plan that saw economic growth. 
But what exactly does it take to be able to call yourself an entrepreneur? How do entrepreneurs pave their path? What steps are involved, and what are the common traits of entrepreneurial-minded individuals? Where does entrepreneurial spirit come from?
What makes an entrepreneur is so much more than simply figuring out how to start a business or how to run your own business. Entrepreneurs have a knack for seeking out new and exciting possibilities and understanding a given market. They’re risk takers who dive into an entrepreneurial venture and lead it to success. They strive to see change through their entrepreneurial activity.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries with big dreams, aspirations, and ambition. They strive toward innovation through risk and hard work. They want to see economic growth and a successful business, but they also want to change lives. This is what’s known as entrepreneurial drive or entrepreneurial spirit. 
Entrepreneurs wear an array of different hats when it comes to their businesses, making the definition of an entrepreneur a difficult one to pin down. 

Inspirational Quotes from Entrepreneurs

Here are some quotes from entrepreneurs themselves that really encapsulate what it means to be an entrepreneur. So, what is an entrepreneur in simple words? This...
  • "People respond well to those that are sure of what they want." — Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue.
  • “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” — Nolan Bushnell, entrepreneur.
  • "What I wanted was to be allowed to do the thing in the world that I did best--which I believed then and believe now is the greatest privilege there is. When I did that, success found me."— Debbi Fields, creator of Mrs. Fields
  • “There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” — Phil Lubin, CEO of Evernote.
  • “My best successes came on the heels of failures.” — Barbara Corcoran, businesswoman and entrepreneur.
  •  “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” — Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple.
  • "As a leader, it's a major responsibility on your shoulders to practice the behavior you want others to follow."— Himanshu Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Rose International.
  • "If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table." — Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.
  • “For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. "Someday" is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it's important to you and you want to do it "eventually," just do it and correct course along the way.” — Timothy Ferriss, author and entrepreneur.
  • "If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.”— Maya Angelou, author.
  • “The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them. Ignore the early adopter critics that never have enough to play with. Ignore your investors that want proven tactics and predictable instant results. Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that's how long it's going to take, guys. — Seth Godin, entrepreneur.
  • "In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create." — David Ogilvy, co-founder of Ogilvy & Mather.
  • “It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.” — Mark Cuban, Chairman of AXS TV.
  • "True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed... Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection."— Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
  • “Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.” — Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.
  • "My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had -- everyday I’m learning something new." — Richard Branson, CEO and founder of the Virgin Group.
  • "Don’t let others convince you that the idea is good when your gut tells you it’s bad." —Kevin Rose, co-founded Digg
  • "If you've got an idea, start today. There's no better time than now to get going. That doesn't mean quit your job and jump into your idea 100 percent from day one, but there's always small progress that can be made to start the movement." — Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram.
  • “The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.”— Iyanla Vanzant, motivational speaker and lawyer.
  • “I have a mixture of encouraging people, telling them what's right, what's not. Obviously, that's how you run a big enterprise like this, and get the best people to want to keep doing these jobs.” — Bill Gates, entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of Microsoft Corporation.
  • “If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business.” — Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s.
  • "If you can offer a free tier that provides a lot of value, it will naturally help your product to spread much more rapidly." —Melanie Perkins, Co-founder of Canva
  • "Strategic leaders must not get consumed by the operational and tactical side of their work. They have a duty to find time to shape the future." — Stephanie S. Mead, Senior Vice President of CMOE.
  • "Only the paranoid survive." —Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel
  • "Don't let what you don't know scare you, because it can become your greatest asset. And if you do things without knowing how they have always been done, you're guaranteed to do them differently." — Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx.
  • "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." — Walt Disney, entrepreneur and pioneer.
  • "If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life." —Brian Chesky, Co-founder of Airbnb
  • “’Restore connection’ is not just for devices, it is for people too. If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This is something that needs to be taught in business schools. This mentality needs to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing tool.”— Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post
  • "People are the most important thing. Business model and product will follow if you have the right people." —Adam Neumann, Co-founder of WeWork
These legendary entrepreneurs took their small ideas and made history with them. They used effectual reasoning, a deep understanding of their market, and a cohesive business plan to take their entrepreneurial venture to the next level. And you could do the same. But what are some common characteristics of successful entrepreneurs?

1. Passion

First and foremost, entrepreneurial success has to be driven by one thing — passion. This is the first building block towards entrepreneurship. If you don’t have the passion or drive, then you’ll never get off the ground. You could have the world’s greatest idea for a product or service — something that could revolutionize the way we think — but if you don’t have the passion, then you might as well not have an idea at all.

2. Innovative thinking

Entrepreneurs think outside the box. They have an entrepreneurial mindset of forward thinking and innovation. They know what they’re good at and they turn these skills on their head using their effectual reasoning skills. They aren’t trying to make little things happen, they’re trying to make the big things happen. This is why it’s vital that successful entrepreneurs are constantly learning and absorbing new information. The world is changing and they know that they have to change along with it with new avenues of thought, innovation, and creation.

3. Confidence

Successful entrepreneurs are sure of themselves. They invest in themselves because they know they can succeed. This is not arrogance, but confidence. If you’re not confident in yourself and your capabilities, why would anyone else be? Confidence is key in business as a general rule, but for entrepreneurial success it’s a necessity. You’re trying to sell yourself, your product, and your general way of thinking. You can’t expect someone to just take your word for it — you have to show them what you’re all about and confidence helps you do that. 

4. Dedication

A good entrepreneur is good at dedicating themselves to their cause. It takes extreme focus, diligence, ambition, and patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight which is why you have to be dedicated to your vision and your idea. It’s easy to be swayed against your dreams, but a successful entrepreneur knows how to handle negativity and the difficulties of hard work. If you’re not dedicated, no one else will be dedicated either. Dedication is what takes someone from being a small business owner, to being an entrepreneur.

5. Flexibility

When it comes to being an entrepreneur that will succeed, it’s vital to be flexible. Because, let’s face it, you will fail. You might fail once, you might fail twice, you might fail more times than you ever succeed. A good entrepreneur is ready for failure and knows how to bounce back. Your ideas will be shot down, things won’t work out as planned — you need to have the flexibility to work with the unexpected. Entrepreneurial activity is all about expecting the unexpected and rising above it. 

6. Vision

What is an entrepreneur? Someone with a vision. The entrepreneurial mindset needs to include a goal that far supersedes basic conventions. Someone with an idea that they are passionate about and is revolutionary. Successful entrepreneurs have a vision that far surpasses the simple successes of running their own small business. Oh no, an entrepreneur is ready and will to change the world.
There’s no such thing as a reluctant entrepreneur — you either want it or you don’t. You either work for it or you don’t. You either have the vision or you don’t. Not to discourage others who wish to pursue and expand their own entrepreneurial organization, but there are certain traits that are vital to a successful entrepreneurial company. And it’s not something that can happen overnight. If you think that, you’re already doomed.
Hopefully, with these words from experts, and these insights into entrepreneurial traits, you’ll be well on your way to changing the world, too.  

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up!